Polaroid CUBE HD Action Camera Long-Term Review @ ModSynergy.com
ModSynergy has proudly been a part of the Internet for a remarkable 12 years and 2 months (at the time of this review). It's hard to believe that it has also been around 12 years since we last had the opportunity to review a Polaroid product. Polaroid holds a special place in our hearts because they were among the first few companies that supported our small Canadian website by sending us products to review when nobody else would take a chance. We are forever grateful to Polaroid for their generosity.
Oh, how times have changed over the years. The Polaroid we knew in the past is quite different from the one we know today. There was a time when we were unsure if Polaroid would survive in the face of the digital era. It seemed like they might succumb to the digital wave, but they weathered the storm, adapted to the changing industry from film to digital, and continue to stand strong even after 78 years.
The Polaroid brand name is undeniably one of the most recognizable in the world, and it would have been a true tragedy to see them fade away. Today, the Polaroid brand is owned by PLR IP Holdings, LLC. Interestingly, it was during the early stages of the digital era that we had the chance to review Polaroid digital cameras on ModSynergy, just as digital photography was gaining popularity.
And now, ModSynergy is here to review a product from Polaroid that aims to keep up with the industry trends and cater to what's currently popular: action cameras. GoPro, whom we reviewed during their early days with the GoPro HERO Wide SD action camera, now dominates the action camera market.
But Polaroid is determined to claim a piece of that lucrative market for themselves, which brings us to their latest offering—the Polaroid CUBE HD action camera. Over the past three months, ModSynergy has thoroughly tested the Polaroid CUBE, and we're excited to share our findings with you.
Polaroid is best known for pioneering instant photography. As a world leader, Polaroid has reinvented instant photography for the digital age. Polaroid CUBE is the next generation of cameras brought to you by a brand you have trusted for over 75 years.
Our story says it all. Polaroid has been a trusted global brand for more than 75 years and is best known for pioneering instant photography since Edwin Land first conceived of the instant camera in 1943. We embrace the nostalgia inherent in our past, allowing us to embrace old technologies through new technologies and beyond.
Polaroid CUBE Product Overview
Itsy-bitsy brilliant! Splash-resistant and shockproof with 1080p HD video and a 124 degree wide-angle lens, the Polaroid Cube is ready for anything.
The Polaroid CUBE HD lifestyle action video camera is weatherproof/splash proof, mountable and built to handle everything you can imagine.
Polaroid CUBE Product Features
Polaroid CUBE Product Specifications
The Polaroid CUBE arrives in a sleek and compact clear clamshell packaging that showcases the CUBE HD action camera, suspended in the air for all to see. Both the package and the CUBE itself feature the iconic six-color Polaroid Color Spectrum design, adding a touch of vibrancy. On the back of the box, you'll find a description of some key features of the CUBE in multiple languages, including English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish.
Priced at $99 USD, Polaroid has made the CUBE HD Action Camera affordable for the masses, and it comes in three attractive colors: black, red, and blue.
Upon opening the package, you'll discover the following items:
While the bundle for the Polaroid CUBE may seem minimal, it contains everything you need to get started, except for the micro SD card, which you'll need to provide separately (with a maximum capacity of 32GB). To charge the internal lithium battery, simply connect the included micro USB charge & data cable to the charge port located on the back of the CUBE.
It's worth noting that the Polaroid CUBE does not come with any mounting hardware, as those accessories are optional purchases. However, what sets the CUBE apart from other action cameras is a feature that deserves more attention from Polaroid—the magnet on its bottom. This magnetic base opens up a world of possibilities for mounting the CUBE practically anywhere with a metal surface. The magnet is impressively strong, and over the course of my three months of testing, I've discovered numerous creative ways to take advantage of this unique feature.
Let your imagination run wild with the possibilities of the Polaroid CUBE's magnetic base. Inside a room, you can cleverly mount the CUBE on the door hinge mechanism, adding a unique perspective to your videos. Take it on the road, and you can affix it to your car's roof, hood, or any metal panel, capturing thrilling moments from a whole new angle.
If you find yourself at a skate park, the CUBE can securely attach to a metal railing, providing an exciting vantage point of your tricks and maneuvers. And don't limit yourself to traditional mounting options—get creative! Attach the CUBE to a fire hydrant, a metal golf club, or even the handle of a shopping cart as you go grocery shopping. The versatility of the CUBE's magnetic base is truly inspiring.
In fact, the magnetic base is a game-changer in my opinion, encouraging you to explore do-it-yourself mounting solutions if you prefer not to spend money on additional accessories. With just a coin and a bit of ingenuity, you can create your own custom mount for the CUBE, expanding its potential even further. The freedom to mount it anywhere opens up a world of creativity and endless opportunities for capturing unique footage.
While Polaroid offers a selection of CUBE accessories and mounts that you can purchase separately, it's worth noting that they come at an additional cost. The lineup includes a bumper case, helmet mount, monkey stand, waterproof case with suction cup mount, bike mount, tripod mount, and strap mount, with prices ranging from $17.99 to $39.99 USD. Depending on your needs, investing in multiple mounts could add up to a significant expense.
However, with the magnetic base feature of the CUBE, you have the advantage of being able to create your own mounts. This opens up a world of possibilities for DIY enthusiasts and those looking to save some money. By utilizing common objects like coins or other magnetic items, you can fashion your own mounts and attachments, customizing your filming experience without breaking the bank.
So, while Polaroid offers convenient accessories and mounts for the CUBE, the magnetic base empowers you to think creatively and find cost-effective solutions by harnessing the power of everyday objects. It's an opportunity to explore your ingenuity and make the most of the camera's versatility without solely relying on pre-designed mounts.
The Polaroid CUBE truly embodies the concept of being miniature. With dimensions measuring just 35mm or 1.4" in all three directions, this compact size offers remarkable convenience for on-the-go use. Its small form factor encourages me to bring the CUBE along wherever I venture. Whether I'm grocery shopping or driving, I can easily attach it to a shopping cart or use it as a portable dash cam by simply placing a quarter on my vehicle's dashboard.
Weighing a mere 46 grams or 0.103 lbs, the CUBE is exceptionally lightweight. Even when a microSD card is inserted, adding just 1 gram to its weight, it remains incredibly portable.
Constructed with rigid plastic and coated in a thin rubberized layer, the CUBE surprises with its solid build quality. There's no flex or creaking noises, dispelling any concerns of it feeling cheap. While the rubberized coating is noticeably thin, it provides ample texture and grip, making the camera comfortable to hold. For those seeking additional protection, Polaroid offers a bumper case accessory.
During my testing, I accidentally dropped the CUBE on the car floor while it was mounted upside down as a car dash cam (using my own 166-gram suction cup). Despite the impact, the CUBE endured without any issues. Over the course of three months, it has proven to be remarkably resilient. Although the body has acquired a few nicks and scratches from everyday wear and tear, including its use as a dash cam and being stowed in pockets alongside other items, it remains unscathed.
Examining the black color variant of the Polaroid CUBE, you'll notice its rubberized coating features a matte finish. While the rubber surface may attract lint and dust relatively quickly, it's a characteristic commonly associated with rubber materials. On the positive side, fingerprints do not appear prominently on the CUBE's rubber body, maintaining a cleaner appearance.
Polaroid has implemented a clever design choice by recessing the 124° wide-angle lens inward in relation to the body of the CUBE. This thoughtful approach offers additional protection to the lens in case of accidental drops, though the level of safeguarding may vary depending on the angle of impact. The lens is slightly convex, protruding slightly from the body, but the inward positioning prevents it from sticking out prominently. Technical specifications indicate that the CUBE's wide-angle lens has an aperture of f/2.0 and a focal length of 3.4mm.
Beneath the front lens, you'll find a single microphone hole, ensuring clear audio capture during your recording sessions.
To enhance visual appeal, the signature six-color Polaroid Color Spectrum design wraps around the left and right sides of the CUBE, adding a touch of flair to this action camera.
Moving to the rear of the CUBE, there is a removable door that covers the micro SD card slot, micro USB charge port, and resolution selector, protecting them from external elements. This door can be locked or unlocked with a simple twist of a coin. If you find yourself without a coin, opening and closing the door is relatively easy using your fingernails. An ingenious feature of this back door cover is its magnetization, allowing you to conveniently attach it to the CUBE's magnetic base, preventing the risk of losing the small cover. Kudos to Polaroid for this smart idea.
On the top of the CUBE, you'll find a single multifunction button and an LED. However, after using the CUBE for extended periods, I came to the conclusion that an additional status LED at the back of the device would have been beneficial.
Operating the multifunction button on the CUBE is straightforward and intuitive. You'll quickly become familiar with the button's sequence of actions.
Power on: Hold the button for 3 seconds, and the camera turns on, accompanied by three beeps.
Power off: Hold the button for 3 seconds, and the camera emits a long beep followed by a short beep, signaling the camera's shutdown.
Idle Mode: The LED displays either green (indicating good battery life) or orange (indicating low battery life).
To capture a still photo: Press the button once, resulting in a long beep and a red blink of the LED.
To record video: Double-press the button to start recording, accompanied by two beeps. The LED continuously blinks red until you stop recording.
To stop video recording: Press the button once, and a single beep follows. The camera automatically shuts off after approximately 3 minutes of inactivity in idle mode.
While recharging, the LED remains solid orange until the battery reaches a good/full charge, at which point it turns green. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine the exact remaining battery life.
Polaroid CUBE Software
Upon inserting a microSD card into the CUBE, the action camera initiates an automatic transfer of a few small files (less than 1MB) to the root of the memory card. Additionally, the CUBE features a small program that enables you to adjust several settings on the device.
The settings that can be modified on the CUBE include:
Camera Buzzer Volume: Adjust the volume level of the camera's buzzer.
Date & Time: Set or modify the date and time displayed on the camera.
Timestamp: Choose to have the date and time embedded in the recorded video.
Cycle Recording: Enable continuous recording by overwriting older files on the memory card.
Light Frequency: Modify the shutter speed to mitigate flickering issues with artificial lights, such as LED lighting.
Although not present in the program, there are several settings that could have been included:
Exact Battery Life Remaining (percentage): Provide a more precise indication of the remaining battery life.
Disable Automatic Shut Off after 3 minutes of idle time.
Auto Start Feature: Allow the CUBE to start recording automatically upon powering on.
HDR Mode: Enable High Dynamic Range mode for improved image quality in challenging lighting conditions.
Exposure Compensation: Adjust the exposure level to achieve optimal brightness and contrast.
Sharpness Level: Fine-tune the sharpness of captured images and videos.
Microphone Sensitivity: Control the sensitivity of the microphone for better audio capture.
Photo Size and Quality: Customize the resolution and quality settings for photos.
Color/Saturation: Adjust the color and saturation levels to enhance the vibrancy and richness of the captured footage.
Including these additional settings would have provided users with more control and flexibility in capturing their desired footage.
The Polaroid CUBE - Any good?
After using the Polaroid CUBE extensively for 3 months, considering its size, features, battery life, and video and picture quality, I find it to be a good small HD camera. However, it falls short of being great or excellent.
One of the downsides of the CUBE is its battery life, which is limited due to the small size of the device. It's not possible to fit a high-capacity battery inside such a compact camera. While Polaroid claims a battery life of up to 90 minutes, it's unclear if this applies to 720p or 1080p recording. In my own testing, I found that the CUBE lasted around 1 hour and 10 minutes at best and as little as 35 minutes at worst when recording in the highest 1080p mode. The inconsistency in battery performance could be attributed to variations in battery quality or performance among different units. On average, I typically achieved about 50-60 minutes of recording on a single charge.
One advantage of the CUBE is its ability to connect to a portable power bank for extended video recording. By attaching a power bank to the back of the CUBE (with the cover off), I was able to record videos lasting over 4 hours without any issues.
In terms of reliability, I encountered no problems with the CUBE. It didn't freeze or exhibit any glitches during recording; everything was solid. However, the CUBE can be selective when it comes to microSD cards. It requires a fast Class 10 or above microSD card, and using a slower card may result in recording failures, with the CUBE continuously blinking orange.
Overall, while the Polaroid CUBE is a good small HD camera, it does have limitations in terms of battery life and microSD card compatibility. However, it offers the flexibility of connecting to a power bank for longer recording sessions and has proven to be reliable in its performance.
I have personally found that the still photos captured by the Polaroid CUBE are not particularly impressive. Although the specifications state a resolution of 6 megapixels, they don't live up to the "professional" claim. The photos are shot in a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, which sacrifices some vertical content.
In reality, the photos from the CUBE appear to be heavily interpolated and suffer from noticeable compression. They range in file size from only 500KB to 1MB, which further indicates the level of compression applied. If I had to estimate, I would say that the native resolution of these photos is closer to 2 megapixels. They tend to look better when downscaled to this size.
Another limitation of the CUBE's photo capabilities is its inability to perform macro photography. The lens simply cannot focus on objects up close, so you need to take a step or two back to capture a properly focused photo.
After extensively using the Polaroid CUBE and assessing its video capabilities, I must say that it performs better in this aspect compared to still photos.
Let's start with the positives. The CUBE is a straightforward device with just one button, making it easy to use. There aren't many video recording options available, even with the provided software.
Polaroid claims that the CUBE offers a wide-angle lens with 124 degrees of vision, and based on my experience, I have no reason to doubt that. The frame is exceptionally wide, capturing everything I wanted in the video. Initially, without a screen on the CUBE, I had difficulty gauging whether certain objects were within the frame. However, upon reviewing the video, I realized that everything and more was captured. Just pointing it in the general direction ensured that everything made it into the video.
The lens has an extremely wide field of view, and at normal to long distances, objects and lines appear slightly curved but still relatively straight. It's only when getting up close to an object that the fish-eye effect becomes apparent, with the frame appearing to wrap around.
The CUBE excels at producing properly exposed videos, effectively handling brightness and contrast. The video looks bright with a suitable amount of contrast. The contrast is not overblown, which would make the video appear harsh and dark, even in shadowy areas. The CUBE maintains good shadow detail, avoiding a dark and crushed appearance (excessive black) often seen in other cameras under similar conditions.
Color reproduction is another area where the CUBE shines. In most cases, colors appear natural and true to what one would see with their own eyes. Sometimes, the colors may be slightly more saturated than necessary, or in certain situations, they may appear a bit washed out. However, overall, the CUBE does an impressive job in this regard. It consistently captures colors that are representative of what is observed, regardless of lighting conditions such as sunlight, overcast skies, dreary weather, or different types of artificial lighting. If a scene contains an orangey-red color, the CUBE accurately showcases that shade or something very close to it. Other cameras I have used in the past often get the color and shade wrong.
Night performance is another positive aspect of the Polaroid CUBE. It is above average in low-light conditions. This can be attributed to how the CUBE manages brightness and contrast, as mentioned earlier. As a portable car dash cam, the CUBE performs considerably better (brighter) than my old Flip HD camera and the Kodak Zi8 I reviewed a couple of years ago. It exhibits superior low-light performance compared to those cameras. Furthermore, the CUBE maintains a smooth video frame rate regardless of poor lighting conditions. Although night-time videos may still contain artifacts, grain, and noise, they are disguised well compared to other cameras in similar scenarios.
I also discovered a cool feature of the CUBE—it has an image orientation sensor. If I record videos upside down and play them back using Apple QuickTime Player, they automatically appear the right way up. However, when playing back the upside-down video from the CUBE using any other video player, such as VLC, the video orientation feature does not work, and the video remains upside down on the computer screen.
Now, let's discuss the negatives of the Polaroid CUBE.
The primary drawback of the CUBE is its low bit rate video, meaning the amount of data captured by the camera.
I previously mentioned compression issues regarding the CUBE's still photos, and unfortunately, this aspect also affects its HD videos. The CUBE suffers from a low bit rate, which is a shame because the videos could have looked substantially better. The camera does not fully showcase its capabilities due to the evident compression resulting from the low bit rate.
Polaroid CUBE's 1080p videos have a bit rate of only 8Mbps, which is exceptionally low, especially for 1080p resolution. While 8Mbps might be acceptable for 720p video, it falls short for 1080p, particularly when viewed on a large screen, highlighting its limitations. For comparison, my HTC 8X smartphone captures video at a 20Mbps bit rate, resulting in better detail, cleaner video, improved sharpness, better color reproduction, and fewer artifacts.
Due to the low bit rate video, the Polaroid CUBE's videos lack real detail. They appear soft and not sharp, often lacking accurate color rendition. The videos exhibit more grain and artifacts, and moving objects may display mushy blocky pixels or macro-blocking. The overall sharpness of the video is low, and at times, colors may appear flat. These shortcomings stem from the camera's inability to capture all the necessary data with just an 8Mbps bit rate.
To illustrate the impact of the low bit rate on the Polaroid CUBE's HD videos, let's consider a video of a brick house across the street. Due to the low bit rate, the video fails to show the distinct lines separating the bricks. The image appears soft and hazy, lacking discernible details. The same issue applies to the house number—on the Polaroid CUBE video, the number across the street is difficult to read due to the softness and lack of fine detail. It's unfortunate that the camera cannot capture such details unless you move closer with the CUBE.
A significant problem caused by the low bit rate video is the overall softness and lack of sharpness in the videos. The CUBE exhibits these issues, with the lens being particularly soft towards the edges of the frame (although it is generally soft overall). The softness is partly attributed to the low bit rate and partly to the characteristics of the lens itself. While the lens appears relatively clear in the center, as you move towards the edges, the image becomes increasingly soft and unclear.
Another drawback of the CUBE's lens is its inability to focus on objects up close. If you try to record something too close, the object will become out of focus. To achieve proper focus, you need to take a couple of steps back. This limitation means that macro video is not possible with the CUBE.
So why did Polaroid choose such a low bit rate? I can only speculate that it was a trade-off made to achieve decent battery life. Compromises were likely necessary to ensure reasonable battery performance, as higher bit rates would require the camera to work harder to capture all the desired detail, resulting in reduced battery life.
One potential silver lining, if we consider it a positive aspect of a negative, is that low bit rate videos result in substantially smaller file sizes. This means you can record more video while occupying less space on your micro SD card.
Lastly, it's worth mentioning that the Polaroid CUBE records videos in 5-minute segments or clips, and there is no option to turn off or modify this value.
Nothing to get excited about, it does an okay job. It's fairly clear, however, at times it becomes muffled for no apparent reason. The microphone being in the front means you have a lot of potential whooshing wind noise. It is prone to wind noise. They probably could have positioned the microphone somewhere else to help reduce wind noise but it is what it is. No external microphone capability.
Original Test Images & Video Samples
1080p Samples (Uploaded to YouTube)
(Keep in mind the original CUBE video files are a bit better than what YouTube showcases. YouTube likes to compress video uploads even further to maximize efficiency on their end. Original CUBE video files are cleaner than what you see on YouTube, let this be a general idea of what you can expect.)
Polaroid Tripod Mount - Quick Take
I recently had the opportunity to test the Polaroid tripod mount with the CUBE, and I wanted to share my thoughts on it. Overall, the tripod mount is a solid accessory that serves its purpose well in most scenarios. However, I believe there is room for improvement, particularly in maximizing the use of the CUBE's built-in magnet.
It seems counterintuitive to me that the tripod mount design doesn't take advantage of the magnet on the CUBE's underside. The magnet is one of the standout features of the CUBE, and not incorporating it into the mounting hardware feels like a missed opportunity. Additionally, I found the tripod mount to be slightly pricey compared to what it offers.
In terms of construction, the tripod mount is made of durable plastic and is compact in size. It holds the CUBE securely in place when there is minimal movement involved. However, I did notice some wobbling and slight shakiness when using the CUBE as a portable dash cam with the tripod mount connected to a suction cup mount. This shakiness was more pronounced in vehicles with a harder suspension, while vehicles with a softer suspension provided better stability by absorbing road vibrations.
Another issue I encountered was that the CUBE could easily be moved and become off-center while placed on the tripod mount, depending on the situation. This could potentially result in the CUBE shaking inside the mount and compromising the stability of the footage. This is why I believe incorporating a magnet into the tripod mount design would have been beneficial, as it could securely hold the CUBE in place and prevent any unintended movement or shakiness.
While the Polaroid tripod mount is a decent accessory, there is room for improvement. By leveraging the magnet on the CUBE and addressing the slight instability issues, the tripod mount could provide even better security and stability for the CUBE in various mounting situations.
Upon extended usage of the tripod mount with the CUBE, I observed that it caused some damage to the microphone hole area of the CUBE. The tripod mount lacks a specific area on the CUBE where it can securely latch onto, except for the backside micro SD/USB port ball cover. Consequently, the repeated attachment and detachment of the mount resulted in marks and scuffs on the CUBE. This issue could have been avoided if the mount had utilized the magnet feature of the CUBE for a more secure connection.
One positive aspect of the tripod mount is the use of a metal tripod screw thread at the bottom. This is a welcome feature as plastic screw threads tend to deteriorate over time and may not provide a reliable hold.
Where Can I Buy One? And for How Much?
The Polaroid CUBE HD Action Camera can be purchThe Polaroid CUBE HD Action Camera is available for purchase on Amazon at a price of $99.99 USD, with the added benefit of free shipping. ased through Amazon for $99.99 USD with free shipping.
There are several reasons why I appreciate Amazon as a shopping platform. Firstly, their delivery service is fast and reliable, ensuring that you receive your products in a timely manner. Additionally, their commitment to honesty is commendable, as they even refunded me when they mistakenly overcharged me for duty costs. Many other companies might have kept the extra money without acknowledging the error. Lastly, Amazon's return policy is excellent, providing customers with a hassle-free experience if they need to return or exchange a product.
If you are considering buying the Polaroid CUBE HD Action Camera, or any other item for that matter, I kindly encourage you to use our Amazon link provided above. Your support through the link would be greatly appreciated.
Some Amazon Deals That May Interest You!
Despite the numerous negatives I've highlighted about the Polaroid CUBE HD Action Camera, I still find myself thoroughly enjoying it. The positive aspects of this camera outweigh the drawbacks for me. One of the things I love most about it is its compact size, which allows me to take it anywhere without hesitation. The strong magnetic bottom is another feature that I appreciate, as it offers endless possibilities for creative mounting options.
Moreover, the durability of the CUBE has impressed me, as it has survived multiple drops without any major issues. It's a fun little HD action camera that brings a sense of excitement to capturing moments. Despite its low bit rate and the limitations it imposes on video quality, I still find the overall video quality to be fairly good.
Looking ahead, if Polaroid decides to release a second generation of the CUBE action camera or even a larger version with improved battery life, I sincerely hope they take my findings into consideration. By offering higher bit rate video, additional software options for tweaking various camera settings, and incorporating features like an auto-start function, I believe they would attract a significant customer base.